By Terrance Turner
Tonight, fans tuned in for the 14th season premiere of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Viewers will see inside the lives of returning cast members (Kandi Burruss, Kenya Moore, Drew Sidora), a couple of familiar faces (Marlo Hampton and Sheree Whitfield), and a brand new cast member — Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross.
The episode opens with footage of Kenya prepping for her work on “Dancing with the Stars”, in which she competed from September to October of 2021. She loves her dance partner Brandon Armstrong, telling her castmates that the two will sometimes take breaks from rehearsals and talk for hours. Speaking of her castmates, Marlo Hampton shows up on set — in a costume reminiscent of Kenya’s outfit from “Grease” week on DWTS. (She portrayed Rizzo, dancing to the character’s song “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”.)
After nearly 11 years as a “friend of” the Housewives — filming part-time and infrequently, with little info on her offscreen life — Marlo Hampton is finally a Real Housewife. After a decade, she finally has a peach — and some edges. (She recently had surgery to restore them.) And she gets right down to business, inquiring as to whether or not Kenya is “crushing” on her dance partner. When Kenya asks about the man Marlo is dating, Marlo says the interactions have been limited to taking on the phone and “maybe grabbing a bite to eat”.
Marlo comments: “I don’t even know what he does for a living, but it’s fine.”
“Some people still don’t know what you do,” Kandi retorts.
(She’s not wrong. In the past, Marlo has answered questions about her lifestyle by saying: “Google Marlo LLC.” But when I Googled “Marlo LLC”, one of the first results was a BravoTV.com article asking, “What Does Marlo Hampton Do for a Living?”)
Marlo did date a billionaire, but that was over a decade ago (according to Kandi). “Money doesn’t last forever,” Kenya says, just as Sheree Whitfield walks in. (Whitfield was an original cast member of RHOA when it began and was on the show from seasons 1-4. She rejoined the cast officially in seasons 9 and 10 before leaving again. This is her third stint on the show — a first for any Housewife.)
The conversation quickly turns to Tyrone Gilliams, Sheree’s on-again, off-again boyfriend. (According to Yahoo! News, “Gilliams was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2013 for his part in a Ponzi scheme that led to investors losing about $5 million. He was released earlier this year from a Kentucky prison after COVID-19 began spreading throughout the facility.”) Sheree answers questions from the girls about their relationship. He’s in Philadelphia, she tells them, and they see each other maybe twice a week. But they’re currently practicing abstinence — which throws her castmates for a loop.
“I feel like I’m in the hot seat,” Sheree says after the Q&A. She directs the convo to Kenya (who filed for divorce from husband Marc Daly in 2021 after four years of marriage. The two had been living in “a bona fide state of separation” since 2019, according to People magazine.) But Kenya still isn’t fully divorced. “We could’ve been divorced if he wanted to be divorced,” she says, telling the girls that he didn’t sign the papers and that she doesn’t know what he wants.
When asked what she wants, Kenya answers: ‘I want him to sign the paper and leave me alone.” She adds: “I’m done done.”
Meanwhile, Kandi and husband Todd Tucker have fallen into a lull after several years of marriage. Asked about their love life, Kandi tells viewers: “Sometimes sleep takes over in our bedroom.” She tells the girls: “I think he wants it. I just be tired.”
Speaking of tired, the next scene finds Marlo arising at dawn to get her nephews ready for school. (She takes cares of her two nephews, who live with her because their mother is currently incarcerated.) She’s cooking them breakfast, checking their breath, making sure they have money in their CashApp accounts. “I really went from being all about me, just being fabulous, [to] waking up at six in the morning,” she tells viewers. “My life changed overnight.”
Meanwhile, Drew Sidora and her husband Ralph are headed to the gym to work out with friends. Ralph boasts about his football experience: “Football’s my sport. I played at Rutgers,” he says. But Drew doesn’t even know what position he played. She later finds out that he never played in a game — courtesy of an embarrassing phone call filmed during her confessional interview.
The workout is with new cast member Sanya Richards-Ross — a four-time Olympic gold medalist. Richards-Ross is a track and field athlete who won three consecutive gold medals in the 4x400m relay in 2004, 2008, and 2012. (She also won an individual bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but she told the cameraman not to talk about that.) And in 2012, she finally landed a coveted individual gold medal in the women’s 400 meter race. She became the first American woman to win that medal since 1984.
Richards-Ross is married to former NFL cornerback Aaron Ross, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012. The two met at the University of Texas at Austin; they’ve been married since 2010, and viewers also get to meet him during the workout with Drew and Ralph.
Richards-Ross easily dusts Drew during a race inside the gym, but the two do more than just show off their speed. After Sanya helps Drew through a workout, the two talk about married life (while their husbands do the same in another corner of the gym). Drew and Ralph are still dealing with the fallout from season 13, in which Ralph left town for three days and took a trip to Tampa, Florida, without her knowing. He was evasive about his whereabouts until the reunion, which was filmed months later.)
During their talk, Ralph tells Aaron about his plans to write a book…for which he apparently needs the help of a female assistant. He claims Drew “went off” when she learned of the assistant. But Drew says she saw texts from the woman offering to give Ralph a massage. That made her wonder: if you’re working with this woman in a professional context, why is she texting you about a massage?
Between the assistant and the Tampa trip, things got so bad that Drew briefly left home. “I packed up me and my kids, and we went to Chicago,” she tells the viewers in her confessional. She tells Sanya that Ralph told her: if she ever came between him and his dreams, he would pick his dreams!
Meanwhile, Sanya and Aaron have been in Atlanta for about a year. They’re still unpacking boxes of their things. They have a four-year-old son named Deuce, but Aaron wants more children. Sanya tells him, “I want another baby, but I don’t want to put a strain on our marriage that might break us.” Aaron responds: “Not having one might do the same thing.”
Stay tuned for more revelations from the second half of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”